15 March 2017 | AlsExGal
Leonard Maltin HATES HATES HATES this movie...
... and only gives it 1.5/4. Well Mr. Maltin is like any other critic - a useful tool as to what might be good or bad, but in this case I strongly disagree. It walks on the wild side where most American films did not tread in 1947 unless you were making a full-out noir with people who lived on the underbelly of life.
But this film has an American coast guard officer suffering from PTSD from his wartime experiences as a protagonist (Robert Ryan as Scott), back before they knew what PTSD was and just called it shell shocked. Scott is engaged to marry machinist Eve (Nan Leslie), but then he runs into Peggy (Joan Bennett), who is collecting fire wood near a beached wrecked vessel while he is riding his horse on the beach one day.
He goes back to her beach house where she lives with her blinded husband, Tod (Charles Bickford), a great artist before his blindness, which was caused by some rough sex and broken glass??? with Peggy, so Peggy feels responsible and trapped and Tod likes it that way. Exactly HOW Peggy could accidentally do what she did is unexplained but insinuated, and I assume is completely explained in the novel from which the screenplay is adapted.
The point is, Tod knows Peggy is attracted to Scott, and he seems to enjoy toying with both of them at dinner, yet invites Scott to return to visit them. Peggy and Scott share their unhealthy obsession with past demons, and to Scott this is more attractive than healthy all American Eve. In fact, he fails to show up for their wedding with no explanation, no apology. She has to come to him to get anything close to "Gee whiz I'm sorry".
On top of Scott's PTSD, he becomes obsessed both with Peggy, who understands him and doesn't try to "fix" him and his belief that Tod is really not blind. You see, Scott knows Peggy will leave Tod if it can be proved Tod can see. Tod does seem to follow light, is adventurous in where he is willing to wander alone, and seems to be looking people in the eye when he could not if blind. Can Tod see, and how far is Scott willing to go to prove he can? Watch and find out.
Ryan is always good as the troubled complex soul - you'll never see him play Santa Claus in these old films, but at least you can understand his character. As for Charles Bickford? He was always a giant talent who let his bluntness and temper get in the way of his career. Here he uses that bluntness and temper in his performance. This is probably the biggest role he is in this late in his career, and his characterization of the enigmatic painter is terrific.
I recommend this experimental and odd little film.